Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Young Birds and Rarities Catch Birder’s Eyes
July 04, 2015
By Steve Grinley

     When we first moved into our new space two and a half years ago, we thought that we would miss all the birds that we had been feeding at our old location. There we had large windows with good visibility to the number of feeders that we had outside. We had our share of uncommon birds there, including dickcissels, clay-colored sparrows and white-winged dove. We especially enjoyed this time of year when we had a number of orioles and catbirds enjoying our jelly. 

     Our present location, only fifty yards away, has only a couple of small, high windows to the back, so it is mostly sky that we would see when looking out. But we decided to hang a few feeders in the windows and we have been rewarded with bird activity. We have three feeders in each window, with a large mixed seed feeder, a suet feeder, several thistle feeders, and, during spring and summer, a jelly feeder 

     We still get our share of ever-present house sparrows, as well as grackles in season, but we also have regular visits from a red-winged blackbird, goldfinches and house finches. A downy woodpecker or two visit our suet. We have had occasional visits from chickadees and a song sparrow and we have flushed mourning doves from the ground when we go out to fill the feeders. Otherwise, we don’t have any visibility to the ground feeders that are likely always there.

     Adding the jelly feeder in the warmer months has kept the orioles and catbirds coming. This year, we have at least five orioles feeding regularly. This past week, we watched 2 young orioles being fed jelly from their parents. One of the juveniles was sitting on the edge of the large jelly cup and another youngster was perched on the hanger above. Both were fluttering their wings, as fledglings do when wanting to be fed. The adult male was on the other edge of the cup, took jelly and fed each of the offspring.

     After the adult and the higher juvenile left, the remaining young bird just sat there. Despite having been fed for a while, it didn’t quite get the idea of how to feed itself, which may be what the adult was hoping. Instead, it sat waiting for a parent to come back to feed it. It finally got tired of waiting and left.

     The jelly feeder has also been visited by house finches – maybe dessert after their meal of finch mix at the thistle feeders. We also have an occasional visit from the neighborhood mockingbird.

     Early summer tends to be a quieter time for birding afield. But the storms the past two weekends have brought in some interesting birds. A red phalarope was blown into Bill Forward Pool on the Parker River Refuge from the last storm. This beautifully plumaged female (phalaropes are one family of birds that the females are more brightly colored than the males) stayed for several days as of this writing. Red phalaropes are pelagic birds that I mostly see from a boat, and usually later in the season when they are in their basic black and white plumage. This bird was a special treat for birders. 

     A reeve joined the red phalarope in Bill Forward Pool this past Thursday. The reeve is a female ruff, a European shorebird that also, apparently, was blown this way from the last storm. It is an uncommon visitor to our area and also draws a crowd of birders when one is found.

     The previous week, Sandy Point on Plum Island, was the hot spot. Showing up there after a prior storm was an oystercatcher and a royal tern. Both of these are uncommon on Plum Island but, unlike the red phalarope, they were both one-day wonders.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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4 years of service to the birding community! 
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